|Today another early start, 6.30 am. Unfortunately Tomas asked us what time we would like to leave 6.30 or 8.00. Chrissie said 8am (she has not enjoyed the early starts) and I said 6.30am and the others said nothing. So now Tomas has to make a decision. He then opted for 6.30 as we will then arrive in Antigua in daylight and have time for a city tour. Chrissie is not happy and Tomas should have just said what time we were to leave, as even though there are only 5 of us, nobody ever agrees. We have a long drive to Antigua and we have to cross the border from Honduras into Guatemala. It's only 20 mins and we are at the border. This is an easy crossing. Exit stamps on the Honduras side and then a short walk (100 metres),without bags, as they can stay on the bus and then entry stamps on the Guatemalan side. The only way we can even tell there is a border is all the way up the hill opposite is a cleared strip of land about 10 metres wide that indicates the border. It is all very casual, not like Nicaragua and Honduras who don't like each other.
Now we continue on for an hour or so and stop for breakfast. The restaurant is a bit cafeteriaish but the food is good. The roads are reasonable and we make good time. Another break at 10.30 for coffee and loos and we bypass Guatemala City which is quite dangerous, as they have between 12-15 murders a day there, which are usually gang related but a place to avoid. We reach Antigua at 2 pm. We were here in 2012 at the end of our Mexico tour but only had one day so we are eager to explore more of this magnificent colonial city. It truly is the loveliest colonial city in all of Central America.
Tomas takes us on a city tour and our first stop is one of the 39 churches in this town of 35,000. Most of the churches have been destroyed in either by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or floods, however, west of the main square is the baroque yellow Church and Convent of Nuestra Senora de la Merced with white filagre relief on the facade. Around the corner is the Santa Catalina Arch, one of the most photographed buildings in Antigua. It originally connected the Santa Catalina convent to a school, allowing the cloistered nuns to pass from one building to the other without going out on the street. Nearby is the main square with the 4 main buildings on each side, a church, the army headquarters, the civic centre and the retail area. All positioned in the main square which is always busy, they made Antigua a prosperous city.
We then visit the Jade factory where they show us how the jade is cut and polished and then of course there is the usual shop. Beautiful pieces but the credit card was safe.
We stayed on in the town for a further wander and decided to stay in for dinner. We ate at Rainbow Cafe, a charming casual place with a nice atmosphere.